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The new poor and the almost-poor: Will poverty rate climb more?

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"Median income remained flat, and the poverty rate went up … which leaves a lot of room for people below the median but previously above the poverty threshold to have shifted downwards," says economist Jim Sullivan, a poverty expert at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind. "Just below the middle, that's where a greater toll is being taken."

Paul Carter, maintenance worker who makes about $28,000 a year, is one who is perilously close to that poverty line. He blames food costs and a slow economy for the fact that he had two cars repossessed in the past year.

"Everybody wants people to start spending money again, but there ain't no money around to spend," he says. Though Mr. Carter himself does not take government subsidies, he brought the mother of his three children to the Dekalb County Department of Families and Children on Thursday so she could get help.

Some economists say the new poverty rate might have been higher. The 3.5 percent year-over-year increase in the unemployment rate should have produced an even larger spike in the poverty rate than the Census Bureau reported, they say.

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